The following is an excerpt from the article “The IEP Team: The Law, the Reality, and the Dream,” by NCLD parent leader and educational advocate, Marcie Lipsitt.
The Dream IEP Team
If only? Parents are there: confident, ready, and relaxed. I walk in as the educational advocate and am not viewed as an adversary or pit bull. All of your child’s service providers are in attendance, and if there are evaluation results, they are clear and easy for parents to understand. The special education administrator attends and remembers that special education is at no cost to you, the parent. Special education teachers are trained in best educational practices, research-based methodologies, and computer software designed to address deficits in reading, writing, and mathematics. Parents are not considered the “expert,” anymore than you would be if your child had leukemia, and the oncologist was reviewing treatment options.
If your child has a 1:1 paraprofessional or a paraprofessional is assigned to one or more of your child’s classes, this person would be in attendance and a valued member of the IEP team.
And holy cow, actress Whoopi Goldberg (who has dyslexia), business leader Charles Schwab, and Yale professor and renowned author Sally Shaywitz (Overcoming Dyslexia) are sitting in the meeting larger than life, ready to cheer us on and remind us of all that our children can achieve.
The IEP team would remember that learning disabilities are neurologically based life-long disabilities that can be successfully remediated with research-based instruction delivered with fidelity. IEP team members would feel free to express concerns about your child’s progress and come prepared to draft annual goals, supplementary aids, programs and services. Members would not talk to you outside of the IEP meeting and say, “Don’t tell anyone that I told you….”
If your child has ADHD (and many who have LD also have ADHD), the treating psychiatrist, neurologist, or pediatrician would attend the IEP team meeting, instead of by signature or letterhead. Also attending would be any clinician (PhD psychologist, neuropsychologist, speech clinician, behavioral consultant, etc…) who has evaluated your child through an “Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE)” at public expense. Even the audiologist would be there to explain the manifestation of academic deficits in reading comprehension and written expression that are due to a “central auditory processing disorder” (CAPD).
If your child is reading two, three, or even one year(s) below grade level, the IEP team will be frantic and hold all-nighters until they reach agreement on a prescriptive reading program. Members will never have been suspected of child abuse due to educational neglect. The IEP team does not need portable defibrillators to resuscitate your child’s education. Your child’s educational airbag will never be released while sitting on the school bus that drives down the “yellow brick road” to FAPE.
What Is FAPE and What Can It Mean to My Child?
If I Had a Magic Wand
I want the road to FAPE to be paved with a collaborative spirit and driven by an IEP team with well-rounded knowledge and expertise. Every IEP meeting would adjourn with parents knowing that while you will travel this road at least once every school year, you will welcome the ride.
Every day that I am an educational advocate I wonder, will I live to see the promise of the IDEA delivered? Will I know what it is to be a member of a “dream” IEP team? Will I see your child reach his or her maximum potential and go off to college and to live his or her dreams? Until then, I encourage parents and education professionals to aim for an informed, inclusive, respectful, and collaborative IEP team – one that will best support “your” child’s educational needs and road to success.
Marcie Lipsitt lives in Michigan with her husband, son and three dogs. She is an advocate for children’s civil rights to a meaningful public education.